The city’s showpiece venue, the First Direct Arena, looked resplendent as Wimbledon champion and overwhelming favourite Andy Murray was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in front of 12,000 people and millions watching at home.
The 60th staging of the prestigious end-of-year gala was a huge success on its maiden visit to Leeds, which next year has another significant honour in the world of sport when it hosts the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
Murray was the shortest-odds favourite in the history of the event and although he opted to skip the show in favour of continuing his pre-season training camp in Miami, that did not affect the public’s opinion.
Murray won the nation’s hearts when he claimed the first men’s singles Wimbledon title in 77 years in the summer, and prevailed last night ahead of, among others, Halifax’s wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockroft.
Murray, who beat British Lion Leigh Halfpenny and jockey AP McCoy in third, thanked his family, support staff and the fans.
He said: “I know I’m not the easiest person to support. I’ve had a lot of pressure and I’m glad I finally broke through.”
Cockroft may have missed out on the vote, but her presence on the shortlist was success enough for women’s and disabled sports. She was the first Paralympian outside of a Paralympic year to make the shortlist.
Welcomed by a standing ovation from the capacity crowd in Leeds, Cockroft, 21 said: “I definitely won my titles on the Yorkshire moors.
“Like my dad said, if I can push uphill I can push on the flat.”
It was a memorable night for a city steeped in sporting tradition; from former Premier League champions United to the Super League’s most successful club this century, the Rhinos.
Gabby Logan, daughter of United great Terry Yorath, was one of three presenters while not even a light drizzle that swirled around the city could put off the fans as they swarmed the red carpet beforehand to catch a glimpse of their sporting heroes and heroines on the red carpet.
Singer/songwriter John Newman, a graduate of Leeds College, opened the show and also sang over the rollcall of departed heroes.
The city’s sporting superstars played their part.
Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams presented the unsung hero award to Joe and Maggie Forber, for their role in promoting basketball in Manchester.
And the all-conquering Brownlee brothers presented Amber Hill with the award for young sports personality. The 16-year-old was the youngest ever winner of a skeet shooting World Cup, and one of 10 youngsters originally selected by Alistair and Jonny on the shortlist for budding superstar.
Of the awards handed out, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was presented with the inaugural diamond award – acknowledging the warm reception he had never previously received from the Leeds fans – while Warren Gatland was named coach of the year and his triumphant Lions, team of the year.